This entry is inspired by someone. She knows who she is.
She said something to the effect of, “I want to be petite and cute like other Asian girls…but I spend most of my time convincing people that I am not Asian.”
As a Korean adoptee raised in an Italian and Portuguese family, I have always struggled with my identity. I grew up eating pasta several times a week, and never rice. I swore in Italian before I was 8, and we went to Catholic church every Sunday. I celebrate St. Joseph’s Day, and we played outside just as much, if not more, than we studied. From the neck down, I might as well have been the (chubby) girl next door. You’d never know I was Korean if you didn’t see me. Aside from my slanted eyes and straight black hair, I could be Miss All-American. Even the way I speak is quintessentialy New England. I studied political science and economics in school, while all the Asians were off in the math, pharmacy, and engineering departments. They’re all off getting their doctorates right now, while I’m at home, on the couch, unemployed and looking desperately for a job.
I always thought that Asian girls had it better. They spoke their native language at home, and had these amazingly ornate carvings, wall hangings, and vases decorating their house. They were wealthy and always had the latest fashion trends by the hottest designers. Their parents were well connected at universities and MNC’s, so jobs weren’t a problem. And if they wanted to pursue higher education, it was financed without hesitation. They were exotic, and gorgeous. They were multi-talented, playing violin or piano, running track or cross country, and president of the student body. They always had a boyfriend. They were always jet-setting around Asia to visit relatives.
And they could eat a cooker full of rice every day and never gain a pound. They were slim, slender, and perfect little china dolls. Somehow the lean proportions of most Asian girls skipped me, and I inherited a short stature, D-cup boobs, a little pasta belly, and “good birthing hips” (according to an ex’s mother–no joke). These girls didn’t have thunder thighs from running to try to be thin; they didn’t have wide shoulders with thick arms; and they were so streamlined and perfect that no one could say anything bad about their figures. I think that’s the part I was always most jealous of. If I couldn’t have my mother culture in my life, at least let me have the Asian figure.
It’s hard, because I don’t have any regrets about how I was raised, or by whom. I get little pangs of hurt sometimes, when I think about what life could have been like in Korea, but I generally am very happy with my big, loud, Italian family. These are the people I love and that gave me my morals and values. I don’t know anything different. Italian culture and lifestyle, especially in New England, is all I’ve ever been exposed to. It’s ingrained in me so deeply, I sometimes forget that I’m Asian, until someone makes a joke about a stereotype. These jokes don’t ever bother me, but it always does bring things back into perspective: I’m different.
IMaybe that’s why I embrace the stereotypes so good naturedly and wholeheartedly–because I have no real connection to them. Instead, I feel like I’ve somehow molded myself into the classic one, possible as a subconscious but desperate attempt to identify with some part of my ethnicity. Asians are smart, so I worked extremely hard in school. They play an instrument, and I am a classically trained pianist. They play video games, like Hello Kitty, and take off their shoes upon entering a house: check, check, and check. I’m ok with all of it; it wasn’t done with the intention to be a “good” Asian, but somehow they all ended up being part of a whole big piece of typical. But the one piece I never could fit was the 95 lb. one. And that was the only one I really wanted.